Wars of Position? Marxism Today, Cultural Politics and the Remaking of the Left Press, 1979-90


Inspired by Raymond Williams’ cultural materialism, H.F. Pimlott explores the connections between political practice and cultural form through Marxism Today’s transformation from a Communist Party theoretical journal into a ‘glossy’ left magazine. Marxism Today’s successes and failures during the 1980s are analysed through its political and cultural critiques of Thatcherism and the left, especially by Stuart Hall and Eric Hobsbawm, innovative publicity and marketplace distribution, relationships with the national UK press, cultural coverage, design and format, and writing style. Wars of Position offers insights for contemporary media activists and challenges the neglect of the left press by media scholars.

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H.F. Pimlott, PhD (2000, Goldsmiths College), is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University. Her publications cover precarious academics, Stuart Hall, punk politics, and print ephemera in journals such as Media, Culture & Society; Socialist Studies; Democratic Communiqué, and Journalism.
List of Tables and Illustrations

Introduction: The Left, Cultural Form and Political Practice
 1 Sign(ifier) of the Times?
 2 The Production of the ‘Marketplace of the Ideas’
 3 Overview of the Book

1 Marxism Today’s Story: An Historical Narrative of a Cultural Form
 1 The Left, Cultural Form and Political Practice
 2 The Party and the Party Paper: Leninist Communication Practices
 3 Leninist Communication Practices: The Party as a Medium of Communication
 4 The CPGB’s Practice of ‘Democratic Centralism’
 5 Leninist Communication Practices: Agitation and Propaganda
 6 Leninist Communication Practices: The Party Paper
 7 A Basic Typology of Communist Party Publications
 8 The Beginnings of Postwar Reconstruction and Periodical Developments
 9 Precursors: The Commission on Party Journals 1953
 10 Precursors: Marxist Quarterly (1954–57)
 11 Precursors: The Commission on Inner Party Democracy 1957
 12 Marxism Today: ‘The First Generation’: 1957–77
 13 A Party of Two Wings
 14 The Brief Rise of ‘Eurocommunism’
 15 Marxism Today’s Transformation: ‘Caution & Compromise’, 1977–83
 16 ‘Reaction & Realignment’ 1983–87
 17 ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’: 1987–89
 18 ‘New Times’, 1989–91
 19 Conclusion

2 From ‘New Left’ to ‘New Labour’: Marxism Today’s Political Project and the ‘Retreat from Class’
 1 ‘Forward March of Labour Halted?’
 2 ‘Thatcherism’
 3 Thatcherism: Critiques
 4 Separation of ‘The Economic’
 5 Alternate Political Explanations
 6 Elections, Polling and Public Opinion
 7 ‘Common Sense’
 8 Thatcherism’s Theoretical Underpinnings: The ‘Wrong’ Gramsci?
 9 ‘Ideology’ vs. ‘Discourse’
 10 ‘Hegemony’
 11 Social Production of Ideologies
 12 The Hegemonic Apparatus
 13 ‘New Times’: From New Left to New Labour?
 14 Part II: ‘From Wars of Position to Cultural Politics’
 15 ‘Popular Politics’
 16 Feminism and the New Social Movements
 17 ‘Municipal Socialism’
 18 The Communist Party, Popular Culture and Marxism Today
 19 From ‘Rock Against Racism’ to ‘Designer Socialism’
 20 Conclusion

3 The Party Line versus the Bottom Line? The Political Economy of Left Magazine Production
 1 ‘Passive’ and ‘Active’ Editorships, 1957–91
 2 ‘Editorial Control’ or ‘Cultural Circle’?
 3 ‘Who Pays the Piper, Calls the Tune?’ Financing Marxism Today
 4 Advertising
 5 ‘Private Enterprise or Political Commitment?’ Printing and Subscriptions
 6 ‘A Little Help From My Friends’: The Process of Magazine Production
 7 The Production Process
 8 Conclusion

4 From the Party Line to the Politics of Design: Marxism Today’s Cultural Transformation
 1 The Theory of the Periodical and Magazine Design in the 1980s
 2 Format: ‘From a Journal into a Magazine’
 3 The First Format: 1957–79
 4 The Second Format: 1979–86
 5 The Third Format: 1986–91
 6 Front covers
 7 Visual Communication, Advertising and Design
 8 Editorial Sections: Features
 9 Features: Alternative Modes of Presentation
 10 Modes of/for Discussion
 11 Other Editorial Sections
 12 Cultural Coverage: From ‘Reviews’ to ‘Channel Five’
 13 The Politics of Form and the Form of Politics
 14 Conclusion

5 From the Margins to the Mainstream: Publicity, Promotion and Distribution in the Marketplace of Ideas
 1 Party Distribution
 2 ‘Out-of-Party’ Distribution
 3 In the Marketplace of Left Periodicals
 4 ‘Cadres to Consumers’: Changes in Readership, 1957–91
 5 Contributors
 6 Book Publishing
 7 ‘The Art of Talking’: Discussion Groups, Talks, Events, Conferences
 8 Promotion
 9 Publicity
 10 National Press Coverage
 11 ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’
 12 Conclusion

6 Write Out of the Margins: Communist Ideology and Accessibility, Rhetoric and Writing Style
 1 Twentieth-Century Communist Rhetoric
 2 Accessibility
 3 Marxism Today’s Defensive Rhetorical Strategy 1957–77
 4 ‘Solidification’
 5 Principles of Good Style
 6 Language
 7 Plain Style
 8 Marxism Today’s Top Two Contributors: Eric Hobsbawm and Stuart Hall
 9 Eric Hobsbawm and the Rhetorical Style of ‘Realistic Marxism’
 10 Rhetorical Strategy and Writing Style
 11 Stuart Hall: Socialist Public Intellectual and Polemical Rhetorician
 12 Stuart Hall’s Rhetorical Techniques and Writing Style
 13 Qualification and Conditionality
 14 Unity and Division on the Left: From ‘Common Sense’ to Caricature?
 15 Tropes and Metaphors
 16 Stuart Hall’s ‘Realism’
 17 Conclusion

7 W(h)ither the Party Paper? What Lessons for the Left Press
 1 A Perennial Question
 2 Epilogue

Faculty and (post-graduate) students in media, communication & cultural studies, 20th Century UK politics and history, writing & publishing studies, (periodical) journalism. As well as alternative/radical media practitioners and students.
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